As with The Philosopher's Stone, Harry here relies on his support network to help him defeat Tom Riddle. And yet, like the Philosopher's Stone, Ron and Hermione are only able to help Harry so far, and it is clear that there are some things in life which must be faced alone. The strength to do this is one of Harry's greatest assets and throughout he takes action rather than allowing life to act upon him, recognising that the choices one makes defines one’s character rather than the things that are imposed upon one.
The introduction of Dobby and house elves in general – who cook, clean, and serve wizards for no financial recompense – opens up a moral lesson encompassing slavery and the treatment of those perceived as inferiors, which straddles several books. Indeed, Rowling uses the books to teach the reader about social acceptance in their own culture. Here the Slytherins value purity of blood over achievement. But, as demonstrated repeatedly, Hermione, who is from muggle parents, is a far superior witch to the pure-blood Malfoy, and it is blind prejudice that causes Slytherins and those of a similar mind to denigrate ‘mud bloods’ (those who do not come from a pure wizarding line).
The plot follows many of the conventions set out in The Philosopher’s Stone but the mystery surrounding Slytherin’s heir keeps the story fresh, and the nature of the relationship between Voldemort and Harry truly begins to take shape here, with more revealed about the Dark Lord and the similarities between himself and Potter. However, this really is the strongest part of the plot and there is little outside of it that is valuable in the context of the series as a whole.
The employment of Lockhart, who is worse than useless – a fraud and buffoon – seems an odd step on Dumbledore’s part, and Lockhart sticks out as a comic character who offers little to the plot other than a warning to Harry about how fame can distort one’s character. In comparison to the dependable and fierce Dumbledore, Lockhart’s success is fragile and based on lies. Rowling here suggests that the solid, but less glamorous, foundation of knowledge, humility, and love that Dumbledore symbolises is far more desirable.
There is too much recapping of what had been explained in the first book, and in general there is a sense that the plot is a re-run of the formula that worked so well in The Philosopher’s Stone. The plot, like the central characters, feels distinctly juvenile for large parts and older readers will have to adjust down their expectations to enjoy the narrative and accept some of the characters’ behaviour.
The Chamber of Secrets is possibly the weakest book of the series, with little new ground covered and, save for a significant and well written finale, little of interest in the wider context of the series; too many trivial interactions and too little valuable content.
Reviews of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Amazon (UK)
Reviews of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Amazon (US)
Film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Amazon (US)
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